Friday, September 21, 2007

Forty Years Ago Today

In September '67 — forty years ago exactly — The Beatles were recording Magical Mystery Tour. I like to imagine John sitting at his breakfast table at home in Weybridge with Cynthia boiling him some eggs as he was muttering “goo goo g'joob” into his teacup as he prepared for another afternoon up at Abbey Rd telling Paul to get stuffed.

But who cares about Magical Mystery Tour? The lads had released Sgt Pepper's only a few months earlier and it had gone off very well.

Here's the thing though: for an album that redefined music, has been voted as number one in many greatest albums of all time polls and is the highpoint in the lads' magnificent career, it only has a couple of good songs on it.

Don't believe me?

‘Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band’
The classic introduction to the great “concept album.” How far into the album did this concept last? One song more.
‘A Little Help From My Friends’
Sorry, Ringo. Your friends were not helping when they made you sing this one. What do you see when you turn out the light? I can't tell you but I know it's mine. Oh chortle chortle you little boys.
‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’
Paul's playing on the organ is rather nice but the song is a bore. The clumsy switching from 3/4 to 4/4 in the choruses bug me.
‘Getting Better’
It couldn't get no worse? I'm right there with you.
‘Fixing A Hole’
They had a hole in the middle of side A and this is what they chose to fill it with?
‘She's Leaving Home’
Ask yourself why, Paul.
‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite’
Lennon takes the words on a poster he found and puts them to music. George Martin earned his pay making this sound as good as it does.
‘Within You Without You’
Oh George, just put the pen down. Sit in the corner quietly and we'll tell you when we've got a solo for you to play.
‘When I'm Sixty-Four’
McCartney wrote this when he was 15. It shows, doesn't it? The arrangement of the clarinets is very good, though.
‘Lovely Rita’
“When are you free to take some tea with me?” Voted the greatest album of all time, let me remind you.
‘Good Morning Good Morning’
Almost universally loathed. Even Lennon himself didn't like it. I find it magnificent. At last the album starts to offer some cracking tunes.
‘Sgt Pepper's Reprise’
Ringo's cracking intro followed by some clipped, razor sharp three-part harmonies. The end of the album is picking right up now.
‘A Day In The Life’
Utter genius. Of course I have to pay this one. Leaked sounds from the engineering and all, it is superb.


Blogger Unrelenting Tedium said...

Spogboy, you have put in to words something I have always felt. I felt I had to leave the last band I was in before the ink as the other members were discussing the beatles at rehearsal one day and the drummer asked me "tell me Doug, do you own the beayles albums on vinyl or on CD or on both?"..."umm...I don't own any beatles albums"...the band broke up shortly afterwards.
It's not entirely true though...I have my parents copy of Abbey Road on vinyl and I Want You (She's So Heavy) seems to be my Day In The Life.

Well spotted on the clumsy 3/4 4/4 change in LSD...always annoyed me too. And no mention of A Day In The Life can be complete without at least someone, and in this case me, pointing out how comparitively lame Paul's bit is. He redeems himself with the meddley on the B side of Abbey Road but only just.
As a man who doesn't own either I get more out of Magical Mystery Tour although Baby, You're a Rich Man is pretty close to my least favourite beatles song.

22/9/07 21:04  
Blogger gigglewick said...

'A Day in the Life' is good. My favourite Beatles album is still Abbey Road, although somewhat perversely I am quite the fan of the early Beatles 'Everybody's Trying to be my baby now' era.

And my sister and I have spent many an hour crooning "Honey Don't" in the back seat of my parents car, with particular emphasis on the line "rock on George one time for me", which I find pathetically hilarious.

I have to disagree on 'Getting Better', which if nothing else inspired Elliott Smith's awesome 'Baby Britain'.

"Baby Britain feels the best
Floating over a sea of vodka
Separated from the rest
Fights her problems with
Bigger problems"

Awesome. But not, sadly for them, written by the Beatles.

24/9/07 09:23  
Blogger Paddy said...

Yes, I prefer Abbey Road myself and wouldn't argue with Tedium about ‘I Want You (She's So Heavy)’

Sgt Pepper's does have a few things going for it, I suppose. One is how well it was recorded. I mentioned the leaked sounds during ‘A Day In The Life’ (I was referring to being able to hear the engineer counting bars during the orchestral swell and being able to hear Paul's count in at the start of his bit) but the band sounds magnificent — the drum rolls in ADITL, the automatic double tracking they had on the vocals, the bizarre piercing guitar that Harrison seemed to like. Admirable. But then no more so than their other records of the period. EMI must have given them a whopping budget.

‘Getting Better’? I was prepared to take some heat for disliking that one. Regardless of what it inspires — and you're quite right about that, GW, the lyrics you quote are awesome — the song leaves me cold.

24/9/07 10:22  
Blogger silky-D said...

well... track one is gold for mine, for the first few seconds of cool shredding guitar, until the lyrics start. If only they could have left elliott smith in charge of the songbook and just concentrated on the music the beatles could really have been something. Obviously Abbey Road leads the way and then you trickle down through the White album and revolver, past rubber soul and into the backmarkers...
also I want to partially defend A little help from my friends, which here sounds like what it is: the bones of a bloody good song being casually tossed off without the requisite attention. For once -- as opposed to his re-working of Randy Newman -- Joe Cocker did it better.
The main point to note, though, is surely that much of the iconic status of this howler of an album derives from Peter Blake's classic cover art (was it Blake? I seem to recall it was). This gives me hope that Crafty can pull something out of the fire that will land us in classic album territory by year's end.

25/9/07 22:27  

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